Bertha Seablom
Reminiscences of Bertha Chatfield Seablom


Marcus Morton Chatfield was born in Medina County, Ohio. His father was William Chatfield, and I do not know the year they came to Minnesota. His mother died when he was a baby. His father married a sister of his first wife and there were two more children, Lily and Edward.

Civil War

Father was farming in southeast Minnesota when the Civil War started. He went across into Iowa and enlisted in the First Iowa Cavalry. He served four years and nine months being sent down to the Mexican border after fighting mainly in Missouri.

Early Minnesota Years

He married Hellen Lauretta Willson. They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters. For some years they lived in southern Minnesota, and they went to a farm near Minneapolis. Stella, William Willson, Guy Carlton, Ernest Coy, and Marcus Morton Jr. were born in Fillmore County. Charlotte was born near Minneapolis. They moved to Nicollet Island and Father went to Lyon County. William had typhoid fever and died there.

The Iowa Journey

Their doctor advised them to move even though it entailed a two weeks drive with wagons and Marcus was getting typhoid fever too. So my mother rode in a wagon on hay and quilts and Marcus beside her, his head on her lap. They camped by the roadside over nights.

They reached Iowa in the afternoon and stayed with future neighbors overnight. The house was small so the children were put to sleep in the tent used on the trip. That night, what was called "The October Blizzard" for many years, swept down and almost buried the tent. Mother was worried, but Father said he knew how to set up a tent and the snow would just bank it and keep it warm. He was right, for the children were found snug and warm in the morning.

On their own place later, all of the children had typhoid fever, except Coy, who was six years old at the time. The railroad was blocked with snow so there was no coal to be had. Father had left his corn unpicked when called home by William's sickness. He had to pick corn for feed for his stock and for fuel as they burned corn all winter. Minnie was born November 16, and Mother had what the doctor called "milk leg". She was confined to her bed and she watched the sick children. When Father was outside, Coy was sent to call him when necessary. Guy was violently delirious. The doctor came every day for many weeks, driving a small pair of Indian ponies fitted with leather boots to protect their legs from the icy crust. The snow was so deep and packed so hard that they seldom broke through the crust and thus went across the fields. Mother often spoke of the doctor with deep gratitude. They also went through the grasshopper plague and lost all of their crops. I was born in Iowa in October, 1882.

Ship's Captain

Great-great grandfather William Chatfield was captain of a sailing ship and the British took his crew and impressed them into the British Navy, leaving him only with a cabin boy to sail his ship home many miles. They flew the distress signal and when they sighted port and saw a boat put out from shore, he fainted on the deck. The cabin boy was sleeping on the deck before that, exhausted by the long strain. They were out of food as the British had taken most of it.


Mother was born on an island in the St. Lawrence river. Her parents were Samuel Willson and Charlotte Hall Willson who came to Fillmore County Minnesota when she was nine years old. They came by way of the Great Lakes, crossing all but Lake Superior. She was the only child on the boat and the crew made a great pet of her. During a storm all other passengers were seasick, but she enjoyed it. When they reached the next port, she was surprised to hear the captain of a larger ship tell their captain that he never expected to see the "Little Spaulding" (the ship they had been on) again.

Revolutionary War

Mother's people had lived on the island for several generations. During the Revolution, her grandfather (or great-grandfather) helped escaping prisoners of the British to get to the American side. The British suspected him, so sent a man dressed like an escaped prisoner, who pretended to be one and to be nearly starved. Grandfather gave the man half of the only loaf he had, and a boat which he was to leave at a certain place on the other side. But a few hours later the man returned with a detail of soldiers and burned the buildings and ran off all the stock they could find and took Grandfather a prisoner to Quebec.

Neighbors on the American side saw the smoke of burning buildings and came over and took the family back with them. Not long after he was taken prisoner, an English officer was inspecting the prison where Grandfather was confined, and Grandfather, being a Mason, gave the sign of distress. A note was later put under the cell door saying that after supper the cell would be left unlocked and as soon as it was dark, he should follow the path to the river where he would find a boat with oars. He did that, and got safely home. Finding his family gone, he crossed to the mainland and finally rejoined them. Most of the stock was removed from where it had been hidden.

Back to Minnesota

Marcus Morton Chatfield's family moved to Minnesota before I was old enough to remember. I think in the spring of 1885. After living near Luverne and near Kanaranzi, they bought a farm 1-3/4 miles from the Iowa line in Rock County Minnesota, where the family lived for seventeen years. From there in 1902, Father, Guy, Mark and Lottie (Charlotte) moved to claims in North Dakota.

While in Minnesota, most of the time my father was Justice of the Peace. There were many trials in Justice Court, mostly with a jury, and we children would sit in our living room on the floor and listen in. It was a very wonderful experience for us. But before he went to trial on a case, Father tried to patch up the quarrel whatever the cause. He spent many days driving around to the people in the case and trying to effect a settlement.

Prairie Chickens

Prairie chickens were very plentiful in southern Minnesota. Before there was a law against hunting them for market, some people made a business of shooting them by the thousands. One man used to hunt them even after the law against shooting was made, but they were getting less plentiful by then, so he shot farmer's chickens, turkeys, and even sheep and calves.